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Charlottesville wakes up

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- So this is what Virginia looks like for a big game.

I was here in 2007 -- the last time this game meant something to the ACC race, and I don't remember it being like this. It's packed. There are hordes of people tailgating everywhere. There was real game traffic. The Hokies have moved in. Kids were moving a Virginia Tech ping-pong table onto somebody's lawn, and a group of older Hokies were hosting their own country version of "Dancing with the Stars." Virginia fans aren't going to be outdone on their home turf, though. One group of fans got clever and tied a mini stuffed Hokie mascot to the back of a remote control car and kept driving it out onto the middle of the road.

The winner of this game will face Clemson in the ACC title game, but the reason there is such a different buzz around this game is because you can feel an honest-to-goodness belief in the direction Virginia is heading under Mike London. Whether or not they win this game, the Hoos are still ahead of schedule. The fact that they're even bowl eligible exceeded expectations. But Virginia is capable of beating the No. 5 team in the country because it plays good defense and can run the ball, but it must also win the turnover battle.

Virginia Tech has owned this series, winning the past seven games and 11 of the past 12. Virginia has given itself a chance to play for the ACC title, though, and a sold-out crowd has come here to see it.